Nick Shipton of scheduling specialists Kirona outlines why flexibility is as much a key ingredient in scheduling as optimisation...
Mobilising field based staff is high on the agenda at the moment with many organisations looking to increase the effectiveness and efficiencies of their workforce alongside offering increased levels of customer service and satisfaction.
It is obviously key that in order to mobilise your field staff effectively a complimentary scheduling solution is required to efficiently organise the jobs before dispatching them at the appropriate time to the mobile device.
However, what is sometimes overlooked is an understanding that that scheduling solution may need to react to different types of work in different ways, and therefore it’s key that the solution offers flexible methods of scheduling to suit how you need to drive your organisation.
Organisations often offer a wide range of services to their customers which can result in diverse requirements in terms of how those services need to be accessed by the customer and how that demand needs to be planned, which can cause issues if your scheduler has been built to suit a particular vertical or service, and drives you to fit the service to the schedulers constraints rather than configure the schedule to suit the requirements.
“Some services will require fairly simple allocation of one off tasks based on matching skill-sets to the type of work, but if you throw into the mix customers expecting appointments at the first point of contact this simple offering becomes much more complex...”
The key with offering an appointed service is that you need to be able to offer and steer the customer towards taking a slot which not only satisfies them in terms of service levels but also takes into account all the other jobs in the system at that point in time, and allows you at that first point of contact to firstly offer the most efficient slot for you organisation, therefore building in maximum efficiency for the workforce.
Even if your organisation has only a small proportion of these ‘fixed’ appointed jobs they become the key jobs in the solution to plan other work around that has a more flexible time window, as we can’t break the direct promise we’ve made to the customer via that appointment.
Generally planned works have a more flexible planning window so we may need to carry out the job within the next X days or complete the jobs once a week, or once a month but we are not too worried about when we carry it out within that period.
Most scheduling systems will handle this well as there is plenty of flexibility within the large planning window to continually optimise your routes until you are satisfied with the schedule, but if you have an appointment to satisfy then that can throw an expensive spanner in the works as the scheduler doesn’t have the ability to move it where it may want to.
To further complicate matters other services may be carrying out far more complex works such as those which have dependencies and sequencing of tasks required to ensure they are carried not only in the most efficient manner but also in the correct order, or have a service that needs to deal with a very high volume of jobs with a short duration within small geographical locations.
All of the above pose different scheduling questions and of course you could look at implementing different solutions for these different scenarios however you lose the ability to get a complete view of the workforce and lose the ability to look at whether further efficiencies can be gained by carrying out more work at one location whilst you have resources there.
Reporting also becomes a trickier task as you are unable to easily view within one system how different services or regions may be performing.
Analysis can then be done to look if the location and levels of field based staff are correct and whether with a slight adjustment to these levels and locations performance can be improved.
You can also start to look at hierarchical KPI’s, so right down to operative level we can start to look at where and how the business can be improved.
The ability to implement a truly flexible scheduling solution such as Kirona’s DRS not only allows you to both improve the day to day operation of the organisation but also analyse how it can continually improve.